23 October 2007

dumbledore gay?

This is a copy of a message I posted to a professional listserv to which I belong, in response to the list's discussion of J.K. Rowling's "outing" of Dumbledore.

I always look for the queer. I've wanted there to be some queerness in HP for years. I really do like the books a LOT, and re-read them frequently. But I'm only totally critically blinded by one author (Philip Pullman), and JKR pisses me off (pardon my language). I have my queer-spotting goggles on all the time (tongue-in-cheek), and I never got that special feeling when i read Dumbledore. He wears purple and likes chamber music - are those my queer cues? He was intellectual best-buddies with Grindelwald? Again - not too erotic.

And I would argue that sexuality matters, always. The absence of Dumbledore's alleged homosexuality is a glaring kind of presence in the texts. He isn't written as gay; he's written as friendly old God. It's cheap and cowardly to claim queerness so long after the fact. And yeah, the books have Harry's POV, but he's not a 5-year-old happily cuddling with his friendly gay teachers; he's a teenager, especially after book 4, who understands the world in a sexualized and complex way. We also get a LOT of secondary reportage on Dumbledore, and - I'd have to re-read for sure - I don't recall any hints of Dumbledore's gayness. He's "mad" and "eccentric" which maybe signal gay - eccentric old bachelors means gay, right??? in 1940 or so? There are also Dudley's weird anti-gay jokes in early Book 5 - he makes jokes about Harry saying "Cedric" in his sleep. And Harry's enraged (which in some ways, he should be - being taunted about Cedric sucks, but I can't help reading that as partly the defensive anger of straight gays when they are accused of being gay).

Waller made me grin with relief when he stated, emphatically, there IS no Dumbledore other than those marks on the page. I frankly don't give a flying fig what Rowling had in her mind for 15 years. In MY mind, for years, I've had any number of things, none of which exist. I've got a whole delightful invented backstory for Howell, before he becomes Wizard Howl (in Diana Wynne Jones's outstanding book, Howl's Moving Castle). This doesn't make it TRUE. I believe in story, and creativity, and storytelling, but Rowling is obsessively controlling about her texts in a way that makes me want to call bullshit.

MY take: how could you possibly create a rich and loving and emotionally complex relationship between the gay male headmaster and a male student without everyone and his grandma shrieking PEDOPHILE!!! ?? I keep thinking of the scene in Book 5 when Dumbledore cries as he tells Harry how much he, Dumbledore, loves Harry. Put your queer goggles on (insert homophobia lenses first) and suddenly you have a creepy pedophilic predator on your hands.

I really resent the way Rowling continually fleshes out her books in interviews and talks. I don't CARE if it's in response to a question asked by a paraplegic little girl with cancer who was orphaned in a third-world country; if this stuff is so important to OUR understanding of the texts, it had better be in the books. I'm pretty loosey-goosey on my fetishization of The Book, and still this bothers me.

In another context: I don't want Philip Pullman to tell me what happens to Will; I want him to MAKE it happen through writing. JKR's statements about her characters are like me discussing the garden I have in my head, but that doesn't yet exist, and possibly never will. My tulips and apple trees and weigela and climbing roses are fabulously detailed in my head. But until I turn the soil and plant them, they aren't real.

the thing is, I really do like these books. I like imagining the Potterverse, I like daydreaming about the classes at Hogwarts, and the contents of Honeydukes, and what the limitations on magic might be. But if Rowling has more story to tell, she needs to write it down. If she can't let go of her Potterverse, then she either needs to continue developing and creating it, or she needs a good therapist.

16 October 2007

for the teachers

So today I'm getting my knickers in a twist over people who denigrate teachers. If you're one of the ones who think teachers have a cushy, easy job, don't work full time, loll around while rolling in big big bucks - you are WRONG.

I think it's actually hideously unfortunate that teachers' salaries are made public, and are in any way hinged to voters. Voters are cheap as all hell. They don't want to pay for ANYTHING.

That said: I am the child of public school teachers. We NEVER rolled in dough. we were perfectly comfortable, but there weren't a lot of extras in my house. my mom bought our back-to-school clothes at Kmart and Sears. sometimes JCPenney's. she worked only part-time, so my dad was the primary breadwinner. both of my parents hold Master's degrees in education and/or their subject area.

Now, I teach myself, in college. I'm still a novice, as a grad student, but I cannot believe the amount of time teaching takes. Grading - it takes forever. And I only have 20-40 papers at a time! The time you're actually in the classroom is the least of it. Students contact me all the time. I have responsibilities to my department and university. I spend hours and hours prepping for class - reading the weekly text, reading additional critical or historical texts, doing my own close reading, preparing questions, making connections, planning on how to run the class. I'd guess, counting office hours and time in class, I spend 15-20 hours a week on my class. and i currently only teach ONE course.

My dad taught for 35 years, in a middle school (35 years of 12-and13-year olds, imagine!). He was at school daily from about 7:15 to after 4:00. He'd come home with a case full of papers, or lesson planning material. He participated in extracurriculars, for awhile. He planned field trips for his students. He spoke to other teachers and parents on the phone. He worked HARD all through the school year.
Yep - he got a week or so off at Christmas and again at easter. I didn't realize until I was in high school that that wasn't standard practice for all jobs. And I honestly think it should be. Who in the HELL needs to work on Dec 23, 24 and 26th? No one. it isn't my, or teachers' fault that the American "work ethic" is so backwards.

Now: summers off. You're damn straight he got summers off. He didn't have a second job. Instead, I have memories of him watching hours of C-span, and reading history books (he taught history). I have REALLY spectacularly clear memories of being dragged around to museums (not bad) and battlefields (horrid). we visited historic sites. He collected materials to use in class.
it isn't non-stop work, of course. He mowed the lawn and lounged around, too. But he didn't make big money. After 35 years of spending 8 hours a day with other people's children, he made maybe $70K a year. That's the TOP END of his pay. He got a nice retirement deal; the state offered incentives for older teachers to leave earlier (it's cheaper, in the end, to let older teachers go and to pay new teachers their low starting salary).

Many teachers in public schools hold advanced degrees. Those are costly, and I've yet to hear of a district that helps pay off those loans. And people with advanced degrees expect, and receive, more pay. Teachers are paid comfortably, for sure. But they are not paid lavishly. And we expect miracles from them, especially with elementary age kids. In my own short short time teaching I've done grad school and career advising to students; I've been the shoulder to cry on when a female student had an abortion; and I hand-held another through angst over being gay. I don't get paid for any of that. But it goes with the territory.

You leave your children with these people, with teachers, every day for 16 years, and you begrudge every damn penny you pay in taxes. Your taxes pay teachers' salaries, but they also provide your kids with athletic programs, buses, computers, A/V supplies, a library, a cafeteria, textbooks, extras like music and art.

Most people who become teachers do it because they want to teach, not because they are lazy. There's a contingent for sure who do it because they think it's easy, and you get summers off. But how many doctors are there who are in it only for the money? or lawyers? There are bad and lazy workers in every field. Many of them make far more than any public school teacher ever will.

A good teacher is a prize to be cherished. Think of your own good teachers. Think of what they did for you. Then think of what they could have done for you, had they been better. We ought to be recruiting and compensating the absolute BEST people we can into the field, instead of beating down and bitching about the ones already doing the best they can.

Like I said: I've always stood up for teachers, and known it wasn't a cakewalk of a job. But once I started doing it myself, my respect increased exponentially. It's HARD to do this. I only have 40 students, in one class. On average, my dad had seven classes, total of160-180 students, a day.

be kind to your teachers. support them. vote in school budgets - the only people who ever get hurt by defeated budgets are the kids.

love teachers.

14 October 2007

09 October 2007


Has anyone, or will anyone, ever watched that "Better Half" show Bravo has vomited up?

not even for the sake of curiosity will i tune in to that shite. i don't know who the hell the "host" is - susie essman? wtf?
and it looks hetero in the extreme. i don't watch Bravo for the straight-shit. i watch for the fabulosity.

also, the concept of this show is just - really, really uninteresting.
and dumb.

08 October 2007


Came across this picture of the increasingly immobile-faced Nicole Kidman on - maybe the superficial?

It's rare, in the current age of tacky-ass strangely shaped clothing, that I see any fashion that I like being worn by an actual human. I see runway models (not entirely human) and I see photographs and store dummies with clothes I like, but it is just very unusual for me to see a person wearing something and for me to think: GORGEOUS outfit!

but when I saw Ms Kidman in this lovely white dress, I thought: GORGEOUS dress. I like the ruffle detail at the waist. Not a good place to add volume, I know, but she's so slim she can make it work. I'm not 100% crazy about the asymmetrical neckline but I like the overall silhouette of this dress. I'm not sure if you can see her slip (oh mary! your slip is showing!), or if it's an underskirt kind of thing, but either way: this is a lovely gown. and weirdly enough, the color is great for her.

Just don't look too closely at her face. It's like staring into a pool of wax.

07 October 2007